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A Look Back at the Origins of the Saint Andrew’s Golf Club

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Photo courtesy of Westchester County Historical Society

Now one of the Hudson Valley’s top golf clubs, Saint Andrew’s got its start in February, of all months, on a pasture in Yonkers.

The Hudson Valley is hardly known for its mild winter weather. But February 22, 1888, must have been a relatively nice day. It may have even reminded a Scotland-born Westchester transplant named John Reid of winters across the pond: brisk, with a bit of mist in the air. In other words—a perfect day for a round of golf.

On that day, Reid and a few of his friends gathered their clubs and fashioned a three-hole “course” on a pasture in Yonkers. They had such a good time that they came back again and again, always meeting by an old apple tree. Later that year, they formalized their group as the Saint Andrew’s Golf Club of Yonkers and named Reid its first president.

Reid and his mates probably called the sport gowf, however. The word golf descends from the Dutch word kolf or kolve, which means club. According to the USGA, the Scots not only took the sport as their own in the late 14th or early 15th century, they also took the word and, in their dialect of the time, pronounced it goff or gouff. The spelling morphed to golf in the 16th century—but however you spell it or say it, golf has been frustrating hackers around the U.S. ever since.

Golf

Photo courtesy of Westchester County Historical Society

Now located in Hastings-on-Hudson, Saint Andrew’s (the apostrophe, by the way, distinguishes it from the far more ancient one in Scotland) is the oldest continuously operating golf club in the United States. Several months after the club’s first national championship in 1894, the U.S. Golf Association (USGA) launched in New York City. The Professional Golfers Association formed around 20 years later on January 17, 1916. The inaugural PGA Championship was conducted on October 10–14, at Siwanoy Country Club in Bronxville, which also hosted the nation’s first pro and amateur open championships. In April 2021, St. Andrew’s unveiled a historical exhibit, which includes a tribute to club member Charles E. Sands—who won the first Men’s Golf competition at the Paris Olympic Games in 1900. Some may argue the sport was first played in the 1730s in the Carolinas, but this 19th-century outing most certainly helped establish Westchester as the birthplace of modern golf in the America.

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